It’s Too Late For Bucky Barnes To Find Closure For The Winter Soldier’s Most Heartbreaking Sin

Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier and recovered in the MCU's Phase 4

Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes may never be able to find closure for his biggest sin as the Winter Soldier in the MCU. Sebastian Stan debuted as James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, introduced as Steve Rogers’ childhood best friend who fought alongside him against HYDRA and the Red Skull after Rogers’ transformation into Captain America. Although Bucky seemingly fell to his death in The First Avenger, he returned as the villainous Winter Soldier in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and was revealed to have been operating as the elite HYDRA soldier for several decades.

Since the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes has embarked on a huge redemption arc in the MCU. This saw him caught in the middle of the Avengers’ battle in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, recover from his HYDRA conditioning in Wakanda during 2018’s Black Panther, and fight alongside the Avengers against the Mad Titan, Thanos, in Avengers: Infinity War and EndgameMarvel Studios’ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series on Disney+ explored Bucky Barnes’ continuous attempts to atone for the Winter Soldier’s sins, but one of his biggest may never get resolved in the MCU.

Bucky Barnes Can Never Make Peace With Tony Stark

Bucky Barnes battling Iron Man in Captain America Civil War

While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier saw Bucky Barnes trying to make amends for his actions as the Winter Soldier, most notably by working his way through the names of those he wronged in his little book, the former Winter Soldier will never be able to resolve his conflict with Tony StarkCaptain America: Civil War saw Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark learn that Bucky had brutally killed his parents, Howard and Maria, while operating as the Winter Soldier. This new knowledge culminated in the movie’s final battle between Tony Stark’s Iron Man, Bucky, and Steve Rogers’ Captain America.

Killing Tony Stark’s parents was arguably the biggest sin that the Winter Soldier committed. Not only did this rid Stark of both his parents, leading to him becoming Iron Man in the MCU, but this also solidified the divide between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil WarThe pair had already butted heads over the implementation of the Sokovia Accords, but Bucky’s actions kept this conflict running well into Endgame. If Stark and Rogers had only disagreed on the Sokovia Accords, they likely would have made up earlier, but Bucky Barnes threw a spanner in the works.

Bucky’s Lack Of Closure Is Exactly What The Character Needs

Bucky Barnes' Winter Soldier aiming a gun in Captain America The Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes’ attempts to make amends for his actions as the Winter Soldier throughout 2021’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are certainly noble and respectable, and will perhaps have a positive impact on the character going forward. However, Bucky Barnes had no control over his actions when operating as the Winter Soldier, as he was completely under HYDRA’s control, and had no choice about what missions he embarked on. This included him killing Tony Stark’s parents on December 16, 1991, as HYDRA wanted to acquire the super-soldier serum that allowed them to create five new Winter Soldiers in Siberia.

Perhaps what would be healthier for Bucky Barnes’ personal development going forward would be for him to realize that his actions as the Winter Soldier weren’t actually his fault. The lack of closure between him and Tony Stark may aid in this progression, as Bucky may learn that he simply can’t, and perhaps even shouldn’t, try to take personal accountability for the Winter Soldier killing Stark’s parents. This would be a healthy evolution for Bucky Barnes in the MCU’s future, rather than him taking personal blame, allowing him to put the Winter Soldier behind him once-and-for-all, despite his heinous actions.

There’s Still A Chance To Indirectly Wrap Up Bucky’s Iron Man Conflict

Bucky Barnes listening to Sam Wilson's Captain America speech in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Since Tony Stark’s Iron Man sacrificed himself in Avengers: Endgame to defeat Thanos, there’s no chance that he and Bucky Barnes can make amends in the MCU. It also probably isn’t the time to readdress the death of Stark’s parents, as too much time has passed since Civil War. Nevertheless, Bucky Barnes could still find redemption if he is shown to have a positive, or at least not negative, relationship with Pepper Potts and Morgan Stark. Stark’s wife and daughter haven’t been seen since Endgame, but they could bring Bucky Barnes some closure if they meet in the MCU’s future.

Sebastian Stan will make his next appearance as Bucky Barnes in Thunderbolts* , releasing on May 5, 2025.

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